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The Jean Harlow Blogathon: A Tribute To Jean

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Virginie at The Wonderful World Of Cinema and Samantha at Musings Of A Classic Film Addict are teaming up! They are co-hosting this blogathon dedicated to the actress Jean Harlow. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries. I’m so happy that Virginie and Samantha are honouring Jean with this blogathon.

What do you think is the first thing that comes to mind when most people hear the name of Jean Harlow? I bet that many immediately think of her as being the original blonde bombshell, a beautiful woman with hair so blonde that it almost looked white. When I hear or see the name Jean Harlow, I think first of how funny she was, and of how much her screen antics have caused me to laugh or to cheer on her characters.

I love Jean Harlow so much. I love her badass and sassy screen persona. I love her style and her looks. I love how funny she was. She was so vibrant and full of life, and it is such a great shame that she died so young.

What draws me to Jean Harlow the most is that mixture of vulnerability, innocence, and toughness that she had about her. I also love how she embodied the go-getting attitude of so many women during the 1930’s.Her characters are often clever, tough- talking, feisty and independent. I’m sure that many a young woman living in the 1930’s could relate to Jean and the attitudes of her characters. Her performances and many of her characters seem quite modern when we watch her films today.

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Jean in Dinner At Eight. Image Source IMDb.

I first became a fan of Jean’s after seeing her in the comedy Dinner At Eight. At this point in my life I had heard of Jean Harlow. I knew what she looked like, and I was aware that she had sadly died at a young age, but I had never seen one of her films before.

I thought she was absolutely hilarious in Dinner At Eight. I was very taken by how her character was a woman who just did her own thing. I also loved how her character stood up to her rather brutish husband(Wallace Beery). 

Jean was one of the first actors I came across who had the ability to make you unable to really focus on anyone other than them when they are on screen. This is especially true of her performance in Dinner At Eight

I don’t think anyone has become a fan of anyone as fast I became a fan of Jean Harlow. I  loved everything about her in that film, and I also knew that I really wanted to see more of her work after seeing this film. I checked out Red Dust next. That film left me in no doubt that I was a Jean Harlow fan.In this film she co-stars with her friend Clark Gable. Jean and Clark would go on to make six films together in total. The pair have such incredible chemistry in this film.

When Jean and Clark are on screen together you believe they are a couple, and you can see a genuine affection and warmth between them. Their chemistry in Red Dust is wild! Jean steals every scene in the film. She makes you miss her fun and feisty character Vantine so much when she isn’t in a scene.

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Jean and Clark in Red Dust. Image Source IMDb.

Jean also makes Vantine so full of life and so likeable, that you sit there shaking your head in disbelief when it seems like Clark’s character will choose Mary Astor’s rather dull character over Vantine. 

There is a funny story about the making of Red Dust that I always get a good laugh from. At the end of the scene where Vantine takes an outdoor bath, a topless Jean is supposed to have stood up and faced the camera while it was still running. She cheekily called out to the crew members on the set “This is one for the boys back at the lab”. If that story is true, then it certainly shows that Jean had a great sense of humour and that she was no prude. 🙂

Red Headed-Woman, Reckless, Platinum Blonde, Wife vs. Secretary, Libeled Lady are just a few of the films which have made audiences fall in love with Jean Harlow over the years. Jean’s film career first began back in 1930, when she was cast in Howard Hughes WW1 aviation epic, Hell’s Angels. While her performance in that film isn’t one of her best in my opinion, it is certainly a very memorable film debut for her. What is also clear from that film, is that she had that special star quality about her right from the very beginning of her career. It would take a few more years for Jean’s popularity to increase, but when it did so she would become one of the most beloved stars of the classic film era.

Jean Harlow (known affectionately as Baby) worked steadily in films over the next two years. Her fame and popularity gradually began to increase. In Red Dust and Red Headed-Woman, both released in 1932, she found her two most iconic film roles. Her characters in both of these films are fun-loving, tough-talking, forward, and strong willed gals who know exactly what they want and won’t stop till they have it. Jean would become forever linked with these two films and characters. I love both of these films very much. I consider Red Headed-Woman to be one of Jean’s best film performances. 

As the 1930’s continued, Jean Harlow quickly became one of the most popular and beloved American stars of the era. Audiences and colleagues adored her. She was talented, bubbly, outgoing, and she knew just how to make people laugh. She shines on screen in those 1930’s films and really gives life to all of her characters.

I always wonder about what roles she would have received had she lived into the 1940’s and beyond. I can totally see Jean in Noir films. I would have loved to have seen her as a Femme Fatale or as a Noir heroine in films like The Dark Corner or Lured.  I also think that she would have been good in some more serious roles too. She excelled in comic roles, but she was a very good dramatic actress too. I for one would have loved to have seen her in more dramatic leading roles. 

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Publicity photo of Jean. Image Source Wikimedia Commons.

On the 7th of June, 1937, a shining light left this world. Jean Harlow died. She was just 26 years old. She had been suffering from kidney failure.

She had fallen ill with flu the previous month, and at first it was suspected that her ill health during the making of her final film Saratoga was linked to that illness.

Tragically by the time that the exact nature of her illness was realised, it was far too late to treat and save her.Her death left her loved ones and fans equally shocked and upset. Her fiance, the actor William Powell, was left completely devastated by her death.

Jean’s funeral became an extravaganza of grief. MGM studios closed on the day of her funeral. William Powell paid for her crypt, at a cost of $25,000. Her funeral was attended by a multitude of actors. Clark Gable served as one of her pallbearers. A personal note from William Powell was placed with Jean in her coffin. The Blues singer Leadbelly eulogised Jean in his song Jean Harlow.  The inscription on Jean’s crypt in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, simply reads ” Our Baby”.

I feel sorry for Jean because she was robbed of life at such a young age. As a film fan I also feel sad that we never got more performances from her. Decades after her death, Jean Harlow is still one of the most famous, iconic, fascinating, and beloved actresses of all time. Her performances come across as very modern when they are viewed today.

I mourn for the performances we could have had from Jean, while cherishing the ones she left us with. Jean is still making audiences laugh and cheer in 2019. I like to think that she would be touched to know she has not been forgotten.  

Thanks Jean for all the joy you have given to this classic film fan. 

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24 thoughts on “The Jean Harlow Blogathon: A Tribute To Jean”

  1. What a beautiful tribute! It made me love Jean even more! You’re a fan, there’s no doubt. I loved how you talked about her not only as an actress but as a human being as well. I just watched Red Dust and I agree with you that she totally steals the show. She so much fun in that. Thanks so much for participating to our blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. SUCH A MOVING TRIBUTE It always saddens me that Bill Powell and Clark Gable lost Jean Harlow- they were two men in her life whom she adored and they lost her (and to make matters worse both lost Carole too!!!) But It for some reason never dawned on me to think about Femme fetale Jean or dramatic actress Jean how cool would she have been ins something like Since you went Away? – she would have been amazing!!!! on my wish list is that Harlow in hollywood coffee table book!! I’m dying to see the pics inside!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You have such a lovely vision of Jean and I admire the different, varied aspects of her personality that you mentioned. Her topless stunt sounds priceless and is proof enough that Jean was definitely my type of girl. 😄 My introduction to her work started out very much as yours did and now I just want to watch and re-watch every film of hers that I own. 😍

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I absolutely loved your tribute to Jean! Dinner At Eight really is the perfect introduction to her work, and I feel like all of her fans care so deeply about her as a person and a terrific actress, you and I included. I would have loved to see Jean in noirs too, it seems like the genre was almost made for her. Thank you so much for participating in our blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This was so beautiful! I also hope Jean would be touched to know that she still has many devoted fans.
    I agree with you in so many points, in special about Red-Headed Woman being one of Jean’s best films. That girl could do it all, and at least we can still smile when see her cheerful persona onscreen.
    Kisses!

    Like

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